Almost 20 years into a career that's transformed his band from a knockabout among friends to one of the most influential artists in their genre, Dan Campbell is well-placed to reflect on what it means to create a body of work.
"I say this a lot: you make art because you feel compelled to create art. It's a way to process things," he tells Louder. "You release art because you feel that it will be useful to others. That's why it's worth putting out in the world."
With that in mind and ahead of his band's upcoming UK tour, we asked Campbell to reflect on every studio album The Wonder Years have released.
Here's how he rates them…
7. Get Stoked On It! (2007)
"It's only a Wonder Years album in name. You know how when you're part of a local music scene and the same 30 people play in all 100 bands? It was more like the same people were in that band, started this band and forgot to change the band name. It was fun to do and make, it was just a different band.
"What did it teach me? That we couldn't record an album in 10 days! [Laughs] I blew my voice out a couple days in and was just squeaking stuff out, really. It might've even been less than 10 days… we had a show in the middle of it, so it ended up being eight and a half!"
6. The Upsides (2010)
"We were not a full-time band. We were all at different universities, so we didn't get an opportunity to write together often. It wasn't until a month before we recorded it that we got to all be in the same place.
"The thing I'm happiest with about that record is the impact that it made. That's the main difference between The Wonder Years and the band that put out Get Stoked On It!: The Upsides was the first full-length where we said 'This could be useful to others' and it was.
"The biggest disappointment is that I hadn't really learned to sing yet. It doesn't have as much of the expressive nature that I think makes my voice 'my voice' now."
5. Suburbia I've Given You All and Now I'm Nothing (2011)
"Our whole lives had been turned upside down in a good way. From September 2009 up through November 2010, we were on tour so much that I didn't live anywhere. When we set out to write that record, I came home and moved into my friend Richie's basement. It was, 'We're going to moor ourselves to this place and write an album about being here.'
"The Upsides was generally about one theme, but Suburbia… was more about recurring motifs. That, to me, was the biggest triumph of that record. Again, talking as 'the singer', I don't like the way my vocals sound on that record either, but in a totally different way! [Laughs] I think the tempos all need to be very slightly slower, too. I don't think the melodies breathe the way they need to."
4. Sister Cities (2018)
"We went all over the world before this record: South America, Central America, Australia, Japan, Europe, small cities in America where we don't normally go… I journaled every day or every other day, so I'd have more source material. Because of that, these songs became more about where we were in space and less about our headspace. There are still a lot of really personal songs on that record, but the obsession with place kinda obscures that a little bit.
"We also neglected how these songs would interact with a live audience. We want to make pieces of songs that are for them to contribute to. Our live shows are very communal to me and writing that record, we were obsessed with pushing ourselves as songwriters."
3. No Closer To Heaven (2015)
"I think it's too long, a little bit disjointed and there are songs on it that would've been served better as B-sides or singles. I think the track listing is too much like the order I'd been listening to the demos and not the correct flow for the album. That all stems from feeling unprepared at the start of it.
"It's at number three because I think the highs on that record are higher than any of the records that came before it. Cardinals and Cigarettes & Saints are two of our best songs. There are some songs that we love a lot that don't get as much shine, like The Bluest Things On Earth.
"If we could re-think it, it would be strong contender for our best record."
2. The Greatest Generation (2013)
"I was seeing these hacky op-eds everywhere listing things they believed Millennials had ruined, and how Gen-Z was going to be entitled and weak. I was mad about all of that. I don't think anybody writing those op-eds lived through active shooter drills in their schools, or know what it's like to have your country be at war your entire childhood and never really understand why. I just wanted to say, We should get to decide what success is for us.
"We felt really confident in it. There was a little concern of 'Are we pushing this too far?' Songs like There, There and I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral were atypical of the genre at the time. One of the things I'm most proud of is that they are not so atypical of the genre now."
1. The Hum Goes On Forever (2022)
"We wrote it during the pandemic, so we quarantined, got tested then met up at a farmhouse we rented. Every day for a week, we'd wake up, eat breakfast, go downstairs and work. We'd not see each other for two months, then try it again. It's difficult to say if there's an overarching theme.
"What makes it different is that now I have kids, and they fuckin' love it, we listen to Hum... every Goddamn day! [Laughs] So I've listened to it more than any other Wonder Years record.
"I always say I want to go back and find the things I would've done differently, but I've yet to find them, which is why it's number one. To me, it's a perfect Wonder Years record. I'm all-in on the whole thing."
The Wonder Years are on tour in the UK throughout November. See here for details.